Made in Slovenia

14 Mar 2022, 12:16 PM

STA, 14 March 2022 - Cleangrad, a Ljutomer-based company specialising in design and construction of cleanrooms, has become the first in the world to develop sliding airtight doors for cleanrooms. A total of 25 such doors have been ordered so far, and if the demand increases, a new production facility will be built solely for this product.

The company, which will celebrate 20th anniversary in June, has entered 2022 with 13 million euros in orders, Cleangrad director Jernej Zupančič has told the STA as he announced the development of the new product.

He said that 2021 was one of the best years in the company's history, as sales increased by about EUR 1 million euros and revenue amounted to EUR 18.5 million.

The company continued to hire additional staff last year to increase the workforce to 240, and is still looking for new staff. "We need engineers, project managers, security engineers, electricians," Zupančič said.

Cleangrad designs and manufactures cleanrooms for the production of vaccines and medications and for hospitals, and produces doors and special airtight doors, pass-box chambers and stainless steel furniture.

It supplies its products to large pharmaceutical companies such as Pfizer, Jannsen and GlaxoSmithKline, and it has struck partnership with the world's largest vaccine manufacturer, the Indian Serum Institute.

Cleangrad has also scored its first major project in France, in a company that will fill Covid-19 medication pills, Zupančič said, noting that this deal had secured two and a half years of work for Cleangrad.

The company has a production facility in the former premises of the clothings maker Mura, and last year it built a new administrative building nearby, in the Ljutomer industrial zone in what was a EUR 2.5 million investment.

A special showroom will also be developed there to present the company's products and production processes, and there is some additional space and land at the new location for potential new production facilities, Zupančič said.

Learn more at Cleangrad’s website

01 Mar 2022, 09:00 AM

STA, 28 February - The Slovenian-language edition of Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, is celebrating its 20th anniversary. It was launched in 2002 as the 16th language variant after the original Wikipedia was launched in 2001, and there are currently 314 language variants.

The initiative came from user Jani Melik, and the Slovenian-language Wikipedia now boasts over 175,000 articles, which puts it among the top 50 per number of entries.

Jernej Polajnar, a representative of the Slovenian collective behind Wikipedia, has told the STA upon the anniversary that they are proud to produce such content with an innovative approach and completely voluntarily.

He says that the relevance of their work is reflected in the use of their work and the citation rate. "We also score quite high in Wikipedia's various international rankings in terms of the amount of content."

The project also proves that Slovenian is equal to languages spoken by many more speakers in terms of richness and the power of expression even at a time of globalisation and the global dominance of English.

"We want to be a role model showing that writing in the mother tongue and in a home environment is not in vain," Polajnar says.

As a relatively large pool of freely accessible structured information, the Slovenian-language Wikipedia has also been used to create language corpora for machine learning algorithm and for analysing online presence of Slovenian writers.

Looking to challenges ahead, Polajnar says their wish is for experts to better understand the opportunities wiki platforms provide for spreading knowledge.

"Several fields are covered insufficiently on Wikipedia, such as economics, law and various social topics, while we are doing better in natural sciences."

Some experts see their contributions as self-promotion, which totally misses the wiki platforms' basic mission, so Polajnar says they want to change this, which will require more awareness raising.

The core of the team behind the Slovenian-language Wikipedia is relatively stable in terms of its size and activity, even the founder still finds time to write articles.

While many decide to improve the existing articles, there are few who decide to cooperate for a longer period of time or as a hobby, but Polajnar says the team of administrators does get rejuvenated and refreshed all the time quite successfully.

"Despite the competition modern mobile platforms present, I feel the enthusiasm will not wane just yet, but we will have to do more for promotion. When it comes to a community or project like us, the rule the more the better definitely holds true."

Visit the Slovenian-language Wikipedia

26 Feb 2022, 09:32 AM

STA, 25 February 2022 - The renowned French restaurant guide Gault&Millau announced the highest-rated restaurants and recipients of special Slovenia 2022 awards at an online event on Friday. Marko Pavčnik of the Pavus Restaurant in Laško Tabor Castle is the chef of the year, while as many as eight restaurants received the highest rating of four toques.

The four toques rating that confirms an exceptional quality and excellence of the restaurant has been retained by Pri Lojzetu in Vipava, Hiša Denk in Zgornja Kungota, Ošterija Debeluh in Brežice, Mak in Maribor, Strelec in Ljubljana and Hiša Franko in Kobarid. The latter won the highest number of points - 18 out of 20.

This year, the line-up of the top-rated restaurants by Gault&Millau was expanded by two establishments - Grič in Šentjošt nad Horjulom and Pavus, which also boasts the chef of the year, Marko Pavčnik, the "promoter of wild food", said Gault&Millau Slovenia director Mira Šemić.

The "chef of the future" is Filip Matjaž of COB Restaurant in Portorož, an "ambassador of Istria" who has earned the accolade for his outside the box approach, while Uroš Gorjanc of Krištof Restaurant from Predoslje has been declared the "chef of tradition" for linking up with local farmers and growers of organic food.

Two chefs exceptionally won the "young talent" award this year - Marko Magajne and Marko Vršič of Galerija Okusov in Petrovče near Celje, while the "Best POP" award for popular destinations went to Dvorni Bar in Ljubljana and Hiša Polonka in Kobarid.

Gregor Kren of Hiša Fink in Novo Mesto is the best sommelier and waiter for 2022, while the title of the best confectionery went to Zebra Patisseries in the Ljubljana borough of Koseze.

"The recipients of the special awards and all those who have made it to the guide represent the rich and diverse flavours of Slovenia both on the plate and in the glass," Šemić was quoted as saying at the award ceremony.

Ilona Stermecki, the director of the Slovenian Tourist Board (STO), said on the occasion that gastronomy was an essential and complementary part of any tourism offering that greatly contributed to higher added value in Slovenian tourism.

"It is precisely gastronomy that provides many opportunities and challenges for creating new, sustainable, often innovative products." she added.

The entire line-up of the top-rated restaurants by Gault&Millau will be known in the second half of March, when this year's guide will be published with the partner support of the STO.

20 Feb 2022, 16:35 PM

STA, 20 February 2022 - LPS or Last Pizza Slice, a band of five teenagers, will represent Slovenia at the 66th Eurovision song contest in Turin with the song 'Disko' (Disco) after winning the combined vote from the audience and judges last night. 

LPS made it to the to the final of the national EMA contest as one of the four finalists of EMA Fresh, the competition for young up-and-coming talents.

They won the most points from the televoting after coming second in the votes of five juries, after the band Batista Cadillac and their song 'Mim Pravil' (Flouting Rules), which ended up second overall.

The votes of the five juries - representing groups including musicians, producers, radio and TV music editors and Eurosong fans - and televoting contributed 50% each to the final score.

The band appeared to be taken off their feet by the victory with the frontman Filip Vidušin describing the feat as their "dream come true". He said they were surprised they even made it to the EMA final.

They wrote the music and the lyrics for 'Disko' themselves. The song started off in a bossa nova rhythm, then they worked on the lyrics and came up with the title once they started improvising in disco rhythms, said Vidušin.

LPS was founded in December 2018 at a Celje secondary school. Apart from Vidušin as the singer, it comprises drummer Gašper Hlupič, guitarist Mark Semeja, Žiga Žvižej on the keyboard and Zala Velenšek, the only woman and at 17 the youngest member of the band, as the bass guitar, tenor and alto saxophone player.

Their repertoire is a mix of soul-pop, funk, blues, rock and jazz.

A total of 12 finalists featured at the EMA final.

LPS will appear in the first semi-final of the Eurovision song contest in Turin on 10 May. Ana Soklič, Slovenia's entrant last year, did not make it to the final.

15 Feb 2022, 13:40 PM

STA, 15 February 2022 - The largest serving of bograč, a traditional Prekmurje dish, was cooked in Lendava on 4 September 2021, the Guinness Book of Records officially confirmed on Monday. The cooking team prepared 1,801 kilogrammes of the dish in a single cauldron.

It took 16 hours for six cooks and 20 assistants to prepare the dish is typically made of three types of meat, wine and potato.

Slovenian Recipe of the Week: Bograč from Prekmurje

The team consisted of professional cooks, members of the town's and local communities, local tourism board and firefighters.

It took more than three hours just to roast the 400 kilogrammes of onion. The largest serving of bograč in the world also contained four kilos of garlic, 220kg of beef, 160kg of game, 300kg of pork, 400kg of potato, 22kg of spices and 12 litres of local wine.

About 3,500 portions were distributed to visitors.

The cauldron was borrowed from the Velika Polana municipality, which made the world's largest serving of sour turnip hot pot in 2013, by cooking 1,089.5 kilogrammes of the dish.

Lendava was proclaimed the World Capital of bograč in 2011, and bograč is part of Slovenia's tradition and gastronomic heritage.

09 Feb 2022, 09:23 AM

STA, 8 February 2022 - Vera Spirits, the Ljubljana-based non-alcoholic spirits maker, has expanded its presence to 15 countries in just over a year in business, and has great ambitions for the future. Filling more than 10,000 bottles last year, it plans to grow four-fold in 2022.

Vera Spirits was founded by Luka Nagode and Urška Dvoraček, who set up a distillery in Ljubljana in 2019 with the aim of producing gin and rum, before moving into the innovative production of exclusively non-alcoholic spirits.

"We decided to take the non-alcoholic route because it presented a very exciting challenge," said Nagode, adding it is not necessary to consume alcohol to have fun, socialise and enjoy tasty beverages.

The market of alcohol-free drinks has seen strong growth in recent years, with beer leading the way. Non-alcoholic spirits, such as those produced by Vera Spirits, are also becoming an increasingly popular global trend.

The company has been present in the market since the end of 2020. Last year they filled and sold more than 10,000 bottles, generating revenue of EUR 15,000. They expect to reach 40,000 bottles this year and up to 250,000 bottles in five years.

"At that point, we should be ready to be taken over by bigger players in the alcohol world, who are already thinking about expanding their portfolio with alcohol-free drinks for adults," Nagode told the STA.

Vera Spirits employs five people and expects to recruit three new employees this year. It is currently present in 15 countries around the world.

They first decided to enter countries where the market is already established and consumers are familiar with such products to a certain extent, Nagode said, listing Australia, the US, Canada, New Zealand, Spain, Germany and Denmark as examples.

The response from abroad has been excellent and they are now focusing their efforts more intensively on the Slovenian market, where they generated half their total revenue last year.

In 2022, the company intends to focus on the six markets that were the most profitable last year and try to consolidate and increase their presence there.

"It is not enough to get a local distributor, we have to empower them, support them financially and provide content with our products, so that they can be successful. We are delighted that the US is one of these markets," said Nagode.

Vera Spirits has thus far won top honours in the US Beverage Testing Institute and South Africa's Aurora International Taste, and it has been awarded three medals by The Spirits Business, a British magazine dedicated exclusively to spirits.

08 Feb 2022, 08:47 AM

STA, 7 February 2022 - This year's main ceremony dedicated to Culture Day highlighted the constructive response of artists in any crisis. The Prešeren Prizes, top national accolades in culture, were conferred at the event in Cankarjev Dom on Monday evening, the eve of the public holiday, to celebrate various artistic achievements.

Referring to the current challenging times, the chairman of the Prešeren Fund board, Jožef Muhovič, said in his keynote address that "art has always responded to various challenges and crises (...) with the energy of constructiveness".

Artists, he said, have always been creating on the borderline between the known and the unknown, the routine and the visionary. They venture into the unknown and attempt to convey it, they expand horizons, reflect on what they experience and pave the way from the insignificant to the significant.

For Muhovič, art is a rite of passage into another state of being and coexistence between the world and people. This state, however, cannot be programmed or created at will or dictated. "Sometimes it cannot be created at all, but only the favourable conditions for its emergence can be prepared," said the keynote speaker.

The current board members were unanimous at the beginning of their term that Culture Day should be a celebration that honours the achievements and works of Slovenian artists, Muhovič added.

This year's Prešeren Prizes for lifetime achievement were awarded to Kajetan Gantar, an acclaimed philologist and translator of classical literature and philosophy, who is honoured for his "priceless" contribution to Slovenian knowledge of classicism, and celebrated conductor and musicologist Mirko Cuderman for his indelible impression on Slovenian choral music.

The 91-year-old Cuderman did not attend the ceremony in person, but in his acceptance speech that was read out loud he said he is honoured and pleased that the board has awarded him the lifetime achievement prize.

"I gratefully accept it as a recognition of Slovenian choral singing" or all those known and unknown singers and other artists involved in this artistic pursuit, he added, describing choral singing as one of the most significant expressions of Slovenian musical culture.

Gantar, also 91, attended the event in person and received a standing ovation.

Moreover, Prešeren Fund Prizes, celebrating individual accomplishments or achievements in the past three years, were bestowed on poet and writer Anja Štefan, theatre actress Jette Ostan Vejrup, composer Damijan Močnik, soprano Andreja Zakonjšek Krt, painter Dušan Kirbiš and animation filmmaker Špela Čadež.

The ceremony was attended by most of this year's laureates and some of last year's winners, as well as senior officials, including parliamentary Speaker Igor Zorčič, Prime Minister Janez Janša and Culture Minister Vasko Simoniti.

It was directed by Katja Pegan, who has been inspired by Romantic poet France Prešeren's epic poem The Baptism by the Savica when setting the tone of the event. Culture Day, a public holiday marking the anniversary of Prešeren's death, will be celebrated on Tuesday in a limited form.

13 Jan 2022, 12:51 PM

STA, 12 January 2022 - The municipality of Ljubljana has announced a public call for the reconstruction of the Plečnik Auditorium, the former open-air amphitheatre in a clearing behind Tivoli Mansion in Ljubljana's Tivoli Park. It was designed by architect Jože Plečnik (1872-1957) and constructed in 1933, but left to decay after the Second World War.

In Plečnik's design, a wooden grandstand was placed to the west of the clearing behind Tivoli Mansion, where the terrain naturally rises, while a gravel stage overlooked Ljubljana. Above the wooden stands stood a fountain, which was later moved to a different location, next to the Ljubljanica River.

After the Second World War, the amphitheatre was left to decay. Until the mid-1960s, the area was used to host an open-air summer cinema, which was subsequently abandoned and the site was overgrown. The clearing is now surrounded by tall trees and is a protected plant habitat.

However, when the Švicarija arts centre in Tivoli was renovated a few years ago, the idea of reviving the amphitheatre was born as well. According to the plans drawn up by the architectural firm Medprostor, the wooden grandstand will be rebuilt on a steel structure, to its former extent and in its former location, with the trees and vegetation adjacent to the clearing to be fully preserved.

The stage of the reconstructed open-air theatre will be covered with grass, and the whole area will be linked with the Švicarija arts centre and Tivoli Mansion, the newspaper Dnevnik has reported.

"When planning the reconstruction, we felt it was important not to introduce new original elements, but simply to bring in modernity and also to be true to the original," said Rok Žnidaršič, the architectural project manager from Medprostor.

According to Dnevnik, Žnidaršič added that although the project followed the form and concept of Plečnik's design, it is not a "replica of the lost architectural spatial development, but rather an interpretation of it."

You can see the details of the public tender (in Slovene) here

11 Jan 2022, 11:44 AM

STA, 10 January 2022 - The European Research Council (ERC) has granted EUR 2.2 million in funding to the project PHAGECONTROL - Development of Host Manipulation by Bacteriophage, led by Anna Dragoš from the Biotechnical Faculty at the University of Ljubljana, a prominent researcher in the field of virus-bacteria interaction.

Out of the total funding awarded, around EUR 700,000 will be allocated for a precision microscope, which will be used to study viruses that enter bacteria and change their properties by inserting viral DNA into bacterial DNA.

Some of the altered properties of bacteria may be beneficial for humans, while others may change from harmless bacteria to pathogens. The project will establish new methods and create new molecular tools to study virus transmission, which could also improve predictions of the spread of epidemics in the future.

"We will study how viruses can change the behaviour of bacteria in the first phase, the second phase will cover the molecular mechanisms responsible for these changes, and in the third phase, we will test whether viruses change the behaviour of bacteria because they are cooperating or because they are manipulators," Dragoš explained.

"There is great potential in this project to discover a significant part of the genetic 'black box' of viruses, as well as new antimicrobial compounds carried by viruses. These could eventually find medical applications, for example as alternatives to antibiotics," she added.

Dragoš is the third University of Ljubljana researcher that managed to secure an ERC grant for her project. The first one was awarded in 2011 to Nedjeljka Žagar, a researcher in the field of meteorology, and the second one went to Marta Verginella from the Faculty of Arts in 2016.

07 Jan 2022, 11:52 AM

STA, 5 January 2022 - A group of physicists at the Jožef Stefan Institute confirmed the spin liquid state even at absolute zero temperatures, as first predicted by Swiss physicist G.H. Wannier in 1950, but his wish for experimental confirmation has remained unfulfilled until now. The achievement was published in the Nature Materials journal.

Spin liquids are a special magnetic state of matter. They are the magnetic analogue of the liquid state of matter, in that the magnetic moments (spins) are disordered, but at the same time already strongly correlated.

Swiss physicist Gregory Hugh Wannier first predicted in 1950 that the spin liquid state can be present even at absolute zero temperature. This has now been confirmed by Slovenian scientists.

The project involved physicists from the Jožef Stefan Institute - Tina Arh, Matej Pregelj and Andrej Zorko, together with colleagues from the Institute of Mathematics, Physics and Mechanics and other research institutions in India, the UK, France and the USA.

The key to their breakthrough was the study of a magnetically unexplored compound, using a wide range of complementary experimental techniques, the Jožef Stefan Institute said.

Andrej Zorko explained for the STA that the team was studying the magnetic properties of a certain crystal, neodymium heptatantalate, and added that from a magnetic point of view, it is possible to draw analogies with states of matter.

The magnetic moments (spins) at sufficiently low temperatures can typically arrange like building blocks in the solid state of matter, while at high temperatures, they will each point in their own direction, like in the gaseous state of matter.

Spin liquids are somewhere in between, they are the magnetic analogue of the liquid state of matter, Zorko said. "That the spins in a spin liquid do not arrange themselves in the same direction, even at absolute zero, is like water never turning into a crystal or solid matter when cooled."

Beyond the scientific aspect, this discovery could be potentially important in the light of modern quantum technologies, as spin liquids are considered to be one of the most promising platforms for storing information in quantum computing, Zorko concluded.

You can find the paper here

04 Jan 2022, 12:14 PM

STA, 4 January 2022 - The dramatic canon of Ivan Cankar, considered to be Slovenia's greatest playwright, has been translated into English for the first time to allow the West to discover a literary genius often compared to the likes of Henrik Ibsen.

Devised by the Prešeren Theatre of Kranj in collaboration with the Crane Creations Theatre Company from Canada, the project Cankar Goes West aims to present to foreign audiences what is a major part of Slovenia's literary and dramatic canon.

In his plays Cankar (1876-1918) explores topics such as political corruption and greed, morals and the quest for truth, employing complex characters.

Cankar's dramatic oeuvre has been translated into English by Michael Biggins, Rawley Grau, Jason and Alenka Blake, Tina Mahkota and Tom Priestly, who sought to preserve his style and language.

The plays Romantic Souls, Jakob Ruda, Lackeys, King of Betajnovi, Beautiful Vida, Depravity in St. Florian Valley and For the Good of the Nation have come out in physical and digital forms. Also planned is a collector's luxury edition of 400 hardback copies.

Paperbacks and e-books will also be available at Amazon, the Prešeren Theatre has told the STA, expressing the hope that Cankar's plays will soon be put on stage abroad.

Launched at the 51st Week of Slovenian Drama festival last year, the project Cankar Goes West was supported by the Slovenian Culture Ministry and the EU as part of the Creative Europe programme.

The plays are accompanied by a timeline of historical events that influenced Cankar (1876-1918) and his work and those leading to Slovenia's independence. They are accompanied by photographs of various productions of his plays at Slovenian theatres.

The translation and publication of the books mark only the start of what the Kranj theatre says is a long-term project aimed at stimulating foreign theatres to produce Cankar's plays.

As part of the project's ongoing promotion, Cankar's plays were read on stage in London late last year with further readings planned at theatres elsewhere.

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